• Maria Matheus

The Salvation Army Concludes Idalia Response in the Big Bend

After days long mobile feeding, communities begin to recover

Tampa, Florida, (September 9, 2023) — As Tropical Storm Idalia began to form into a Hurricane, The Salvation Army, Florida Division’s Emergency Disaster Services personnel, and equipment were being readied to serve disaster survivors immediately following Idalia’s landfall and impacts.

While canteens and mobile feeding units rolled into the Big Bend, additional specialized equipment convoyed in the same direction to support the deployed personnel at the base camp. This was their new home and base of operations for the upcoming week and a half.

As power was restored and telecommunications came back online, The Salvation Army utilized recently acquired satellite communications technology, the Starlink network. This provided incident management teams with the necessary connectivity to coordinate and communicate the response.

“The Starlink network was first used last year during the response to Hurricane Ian in Southwest Florida, which proved to be an invaluable resource for The Salvation Army's ability to respond efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of disaster survivors,” said Steven Hartsook, Emergency Disaster Services Director for the Florida Division.

In addition to the new Starlink connectivity resource, The Salvation Army Fort Walton Corps deployed its new mobile feeding unit that was delivered to their community just a month ago. “We transitioned from having the oldest canteen in the State to having the newest and first of its kind in Florida, if not the nation," said Lieutenant James Milner of the Fort Walton Beach command.

Thanks to a grant from Impact 100 of Northwest Florida, Inc., the brand-new canteen is equipped to prepare and serve meals on-site, but it is also equipped with a Starlink system. “The ability to offer survivors the opportunity to have internet connectivity to contact loved ones, process an insurance claim, and apply for assistance, will be a game changer in our service to communities,” Lt. Milner shared. 

The system is the first of its kind in the country, and Hartsook hopes it will be so successful that it becomes an operational component of future new canteens.

The Salvation Army has concluded its response to Hurricane Idalia. It demobilized canteens, personnel, and specialized equipment, resetting each asset to ensure preparedness for the next disaster. Grateful for the sacrifices of our trained disaster workers, who left their homes, jobs, and families to serve others in need, they provided the following:

Prepared Meals                                        32,508

Drinks                                                         8,892

Snacks                                                      21,006

Cases of Water                                              199

Bags of Ice                                                     454

Cleanup Kits                                                2,722

Comfort/Hygiene Kits                                     836

Emotional and Spiritual Care
to Individuals                                                2,164

Total Personnel Hours Served                     5,323

For more information on The Salvation Army's emergency disaster response, visit disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.

To make a financial gift to support emergency disaster relief efforts or to volunteer, please go to the following:

· Donate online: www.HelpSalvationArmy.org.

· Donate by phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769)

· Text-To-Donate: Text STORM to 51555 to donate to help disaster relief efforts.

· Current media releases, updates, and information - www.disaster.salvationarmy.org

One hundred percent of designated disaster donations go to direct services for survivors and first responders.